London 2012: creating a nano-cloud for diversity and equality

an image of two wheelchair users back to back - the left is covered in union jacks (our national pride at the moment) and the right is grey and dark - a sythe in hand - the threat of benefit cuts

So how do we feel? At the end of this summer of Olympic and Paralympic excellence, at the end of London 2012 Festival pushing art into every corner of the country, at the end of Unlimited – a four-year journey for deaf and disabled artists to stretch every muscle and sinew and bring us work that was frankly extraordinarily brilliant – how do we feel?

Elated? Exhausted?

I met an Australian. ‘We failed to follow-up after Sydney’, she said. ‘We had all this goodwill, these challenged and changed mindsets after the Paralympics, but we didn’t capitalise on it. How will you stop the UK from making the same mistake we did?’

We have to. I struggled in the moment to answer her. I thought about where I work – the creative and cultural sector. Is Arts Council England in a place to ensure it pushes forward now to cement these changed perceptions? British Council? Organisations? Individual artists? How can we jointly make sure that not only we go forwards, but that we don’t immediately slam the brakes on and end up going backwards.

Then I watched Dr Who on i-player – Asylum of the Daleks.

There is a cloud above a planet which covers anyone and anything with nano-bots. These seep in through skin and breath and slowly transform all that they touch. In Dr Who’s case this is bad – they suck out love and replace with anger. But we can use the Olympics and Paralympics, the London 2012 Festival, the Unlimited Commissions – we can use it all like nano-bots.

Instead of sucking out love, they’ve sucked out cynicism and stereotypes. Instead of creating anger, they’ve pumped us full of equality.

We need to keep this transformation going. Everyone, in everything that they do, needs to take these feelings forwards. We really can create a country that feels this good all the time if we want to.

But it’s not going to be easy.

There are cruel cuts on the way – and the disability movement is rousing. But the army shouldn’t just be theirs. We’ve all seen the country unify behind our Paralympians – not ‘superhumans’, but simply human. Disabled people’s struggles are everyone’s’ struggles – it’s not about separation but inclusion.

So when you see the news about the cuts, and the action and the demos and the fights – don’t switch off or turn away. These are your battles too. These are ours – all of ours.

Read more, find out more. Read the Sparticus Report, get informed and get involved.

At the end of this amazing summer I feel empowered and ready to take on the world! Let the transformation begin!

The image is from Disabled People Against Cuts by Gemma Nash. Here is what she posted with it: 

This is both a celebration of all our amazing paralympians and also a reflection on the future for all disabled people. Many disabled athletes and other high flyers have risen to the top of their game against the backdrop of a more secure welfare system. Ade Adepitan, the Paralympic wheelchair medallist who is a Channel 4 presenter for the Games, said: “Without DLA I would not have been able to do what I did or be a top athlete.” Without a fair welfare system and adequate disability benefits disabled people will not reach their full potential and achieve what they want to.

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